We traveled to South Haven, Michigan for our Van Buren State Park review in July, 2018. We love spending a summer weekend on the shores of Lake Michigan so we were excited for some beach time. Van Buren State Park isn’t one of the most popular parks in Michigan’s State Park system so we had somewhat low expectations. We had a fantastic weekend and we were really impressed with the campground and park overall.
Our Campsite at Van Buren State Park
We camped in site 195 in the east loops (194-220) of the campground. Our campsite was spacious and shady. The campsites vary in size throughout the park. There are plenty of trees throughout the park, giving it an “up north” feel. (Yes, we’re true Michiganders using terminology like “up north”!) Since we were in one of the far loops of the campground so there wasn’t too much traffic. We did notice that the sites near the middle of the park had more traffic. Keep that in mind when choosing a site.
The Campground at Van Buren State Park
The campground at Van Buren State Park features many trees and grassy sites. The bath houses feel a little dated with a 70’s vibe. Despite their age, they were clean and well maintained. Not exactly the glamourous bathhouse at Harrisville State Park, but far from the worst we’ve seen. The playground kept up the 70’s vibe with older, basic equipment like a merry-go-round and a climbing structure. Our nine-year-old wasn’t too impressed but it was great for our five-year-olds.
The campground is located a decent distance from the beach, especially if you stay on the east side of the campground. If you have kids you’ll probably want to drive or ride a bike. There is plenty of parking available if you choose to drive over.
The Beach at Van Buren State Park
Van Buren State Park’s beach is used by campers and anyone else with a State Park permit. It gets very busy during peak hours. We loved that there was a cement walkway that made it easy to get to the water. It definitely made getting our three kids and a wagon to the water easier!
There are also restrooms and a newer playground area right near the beach. The beach was much less crowded in the evening. If you’re looking for a less-crowded beach visit during the peak season, consider heading over after 6:00pm.
The beach does have some rocky areas, which is unusual for Lake Michigan. Our kids had an easy time getting past the rocks and into a sandy area. You might consider bringing along water shoes if rocks bother you. We’ve read horrible reviews of this beach because of the rocks but it didn’t really bother our family. We spend a lot of time in Lake Huron so it wasn’t a deal breaker for us.
What’s Around Van Buren State Park?
Van Buren State Park is located just south of South Haven, Michigan. South Haven has an adorable downtown area. It also features stores like Meijer for grocery shopping anything else you may need during your stay. We didn’t explore the area too much since we were mostly focused on beach time during our short weekend stay. We did, however, find time to visit the new Gino’s East Pizza that had just opened. Pizza = a priority for us!
We visited Gino’s East South Haven on one of the very first weekends they were open. It was obvious they were still working out the kinks. The pizza was delicious but it wasn’t an exact match to the Chicago locations. They’ve definitely made some modifications (pizza isn’t as “deep AF” as it is in Chicago) to be able to cook the deep dish pizzas faster and serve more customers.
We also saw several blueberry farms near the park that offered “you pick” options if that’s your thing. We saw many, many people loading up on blueberries!